La Demoiselle et le violoncelliste is my third Sunday Classic Animation and anyone reading the Animation Blog will recognise my love of French animation. Jean-François Laguionie was 26 when he made this, his first major animation. It is an unusually melancholic film in which a young woman fishes for shrimps with a hand net in the seas beneath gleaming white cliffs. From his vantage point on these same cliffs a young man watches her and plays his cello. His music perhaps has an unsettling effect on the waves and the woman is swept out to sea, causing the cellist to set out into the huge waves to rescue her. His attempts prove fruitless. Or do they? The pathetic fallacy of wave action being triggered by bow on strings is typical of the world Jean-François creates. The woman sits on a giant crab as the man plays beneath the sea, the man rescues his precious instrument from a brawl between the same crab and a giant fish, and in an enigmatic conclusion the pair emerge on a crowded beach in a bay a little removed from the crowd. The animation might be a trifle slow by modern day standards but the scenes have the vivid appeal of abstract or surreal paintings, never more so than when the cello is cast on the sand of an empty bay or the man plays his cello on the cliffs. However the opening scenes as the darkening waves overpower man and woman have a strength to them that is very powerful, as does the pair's re-emergence. Inevitably the music by Edouard Lalo does much to establish mood. Made primarily with paper cut-outs the movie is rightly a classic and won the Grand Prix at the Festival of Annecy.
Biography: Jean-François was born in Besançon in 1939. He was originally a graphic designer. La Traversée de l'Atlantique (Crossing the Atlantic) for which he was awarded the Palm d'Or at Cannes, is the most famous of his shorts though his place in French animation history is assured not only for his earlier, innovative work but also for the present. In 1984 he established what is today a very successful animation company in an old silk mill, Saint Laurent le Minier, in the Cevennes. La Fabrique has made over a hundred films, many for television, of which the most famous and successful of the major movies were A Monkey's Tale (1999) and Black Mor's Island (2004). He is much influenced in his work by the great cartoonist, Paul Grimault.